Wish You Were Here, Dad

Dear Dad,

I wish you were here. Thirty-three years of life without you has been a lifetime of missed experiences. Time has taught me to coexist with the void; it can never heal the wounds. When I think of all you’ve missed, I simply feel robbed. I’ve built a whole life and family that you never knew. I struggle with regret about so many things. 

I wish we’d talked honestly about the inevitable outcome of your cancer. About 25 years ago, I saw a story about a mom who created videos and bought gifts for all the future things she’d miss with her daughter. I burned with jealousy. I wonder the advice you might have offered about finishing college, picking a career, choosing a husband, and becoming a mom myself. 

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I wish I’d fully appreciated you and been able to experience an adult relationship together. On loop, my mind replays the scene of the last time we spoke in person, and how my bratty teenage self dared to fight with you about the financial aid application.

texas daddiesI wish you knew my husband and children. I know you would’ve loved them and been the best father-in-law and grandfather to them. Even more important, I wish they’d known you. 

I wish you’d been there to loudly embarrass me at my college graduation, or to be asked for my hand in marriage. I wonder what you might have said just before walking me down the aisle, and whether you would’ve cried when first handed each grandchild.

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Your friend was so right to prepare me, just hours before you died, that I would always miss you terribly. How kind and gracious he was to let me know that throughout my entire life, moments and milestones would suddenly drown me in fresh waves of grief.

Sure enough, the mere sight of a man in coveralls or the sound of patriotic music nearly knock the wind out of me.

And yet, life offsets the angst with equally beautiful breathtaking moments.

A dad holds hands with a child.When Cooper made a certain facial expression as a boy, I’d see a flash of you. As Collin sat for hours, engrossed in the Military History channel, I could picture you next to him for marathon sessions on the couch together. Caris’ deep curiosity and love for science remind me of your intellect. Even the man I married mirrors the way you’d sincerely jump at the chance to help and serve others.

Whether it’s Father’s Day or a Tuesday, I sit in the tension of loss and gain. I sit in the “wishes” of what might have been even as I witness the miracle of your legacy living on through the family you never knew.

Life is such a clash of grief and joy. Somehow, in the decades since I last held your hand, I sense you teaching me to relish the juxtaposition of laughing through the tears. 

Thank you, Dad.

Thank you for cramming so many memories and conversations and everyday mundane into our 19 years together. I’m making it enough to last a lifetime.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

I love you the most and the best.

Heather has called the Fort Worth area home since 1995, after growing up as an Army brat and preacher's kid. She's married to her college sweetheart, Chris (Sic' Em Bears!). Their kids include Collin (1999) and his wife Elizabeth (1999), Cooper (2001), and Caris (2004). Heather is the co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization, The Adoptee Collective, which offers lifetime adoptee support and post adoption resources, as well as pre-adoption education. Heather is also a TBRI® Practitioner. Heather has authored and published multiple books and she finds joy in using her gifts, time, and energy toward her life goal to finish empty.


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